Grand Opening Celebration for Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Rapids Lake Unit Education and Visitor Center to be held October 19

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Rapids Lake Education and Vistors CenterThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Trust will celebrate the completion of the Rapids Lake Unit of Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday, October 19, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Festivities will include the dedication of the new Education and Visitor Center, educational activities for all ages, demonstrations and self-led tours.

The 1,500-acre Rapids Lake Unit spans the north side of the Minnesota River Valley from downtown Carver to Carver County Road 45. The new Rapids Lake Education and Visitor Center overlooks the river at the former Gehl-Mittelsted farmsite at 15865 Carver Highlands Drive (just off County Road 45).

A map of the area and location of the visitor center can be found online at: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/minnesotavalley/rapids_lake.html

The initial property purchase for the Rapids Lake Unit was completed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in 1995. In recent years, the Minnesota Valley Trust has purchased an additional 500 acres from six landowners to complete the unit. Partial funding for the latter purchases came from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Natural Resources Conservation Service Wetland Reserve Program and the North American Wetland Conservation Act.

Original habitats of prairie, oak savanna, wetland and floodplain forest are being restored on the unit. Water control structures have been installed on a 100-acre wetland within the unit, and the water control structure is being replaced on Rapids Lake to restore that lake.

Rapids Lake Education and Vistors CenterHikers, hunters, photographers and wildlife lovers can enjoy the five miles of unpaved pedestrian trails that have been developed on the new unit, with trailheads at the Education and Visitor Center, Carver Bluffs Park and downtown Carver at Ash Street. A new pedestrian bridge over Carver Creek at Ash Street will be completed by the grand opening. Parking lots for the unit are available at County Road 45, the Education and Visitor Center, Carver Bluffs Park and downtown Carver.

On October 19, the grand opening events will include outdoor educational activities and demonstrations led by refuge staff, as well as self-led tours of the Education and Visitor Center. Hiking trails will also be open. A dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting for the Education and Visitor Center will be held at noon, after which the building will be open to the public. A light lunch and cake will be served.

For directions and more information about the Rapids Lake Unit and the Education and Visitor Center, call 952-361-4500 or visit http://www.fws.gov/midwest/minnesotavalley/visitor_center_rapids_lake.html

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1976 and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide habitat for a large number of migratory waterfowl, fish, and other wildlife species threatened by commercial and industrial development. The Refuge comprises 14,000 authorized acres, stretching 90 miles from Fort Snelling State Park to St. Peter, Minnesota. The Refuge has multiple units, seven of which have trails and interpretive signs. The main Visitor Center is located in Bloomington, one mile east of the Mall of America.

The Minnesota Valley Trust is a private, nonprofit corporation established in 2000 through a settlement between the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Metropolitan Airports Commission. The Minnesota Valley Trust works to mitigate the impacts of the north-south runway under construction at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, which will send thousands of inbound and outbound flights every month over popular units of the Refuge near the airport. The Minnesota Valley Trust manages the settlement funds for the purposes of expanding the Minnesota Valley Refuge by at least 4,090 acres, constructing a new visitor and environmental education center and developing other public use facilities, such as trails, parking lots and interpretive kiosks. For more information, visit http://www.mnvalleytrust.org.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov